About Antonio Esfandiari
|Current Residence||San Francisco Calif.|
|Birth Place||Tehran , IR|
Who has more tricks up their sleeve than a magician? One of poker's most interesting players, Antonio Esfandiari, formerly a profession magician, is a bona fide superstar in the card-playing community.
Originally from Tehran, Iran, Esfandiari moved to the United States with his parents in 1988. Esfandiari knew very little English when he started school in his new home but learned the language in less than six months.
Growing up in the San Jose area, Esfandiari was a model student until he hit 12th grade. Esfandiari got heavily involved with the party scene and moved away from home when he was only 17. He soon had an apartment of his own, which he paid for by working as a waiter. His place quickly became party central and his last year of high school suffered as a result.
It was while Esfandiari was waiting tables that he got his first taste of magic. Between tables Esfandiari saw the bartender perform a magic trick. He was so impressed he went straight to the nearest magic shop and asked how the trick was done. The store owner quickly showed Esfandiari the method behind the trick. Esfandiari began throwing magic into his waitering gig, performing for tips, and eventually dropped the waitering part altogether. "Magic Antonio" was able to pull in $300 to $400 an hour just doing magic.
At that time Esfandiari had a roommate who was a professional poker player. One day, at his roommate's suggestion, Esfandiari tried his hand at poker. Despite technically being too young to play he found a way to win money in the first tournament he entered. Esfandiari was hooked and soon, in addition to making rabbits disappear as a magician, he was making other people's money disappear as a poker player.
Later in his career Esfandiari would talk about how the two professions complemented each other. He said that as a magician he learned to gauge human behavior and he was able to use that skill when he moved on to cards.
Just as Esfandiari was getting into high-stakes poker he met a fellow player by the name of Phil Laak. They were sharing a table at the WSOP and Esfandiari was wowing the other players with his magic tricks. Laak was actually trying to figure the tricks out and this irked Esfandiari. Esfandiari moved to another table but Laak followed him there as well. Eventually they started talking and became quick friends.
Laak, who is also known as the Unabomber, ended up coming out to the Bay Area to visit Esfandiari and by the time he left they had agreed to share a place. Ironically both players would go on to attain fame on the poker circuit.
In 2002 Esfandiari made a name for himself at the WPT 49'er Gold Rush Bonanza by getting under Phil Hellmuth's skin and eventually placing third for $44,000. It was the first major tournament win for Esfandiari, but more were soon to come. A year later he made the final table of the $2,000 No-Limit Hold'em tournament at the 2003 WSOP.
Finally in 2004 Esfandiari cemented his place in poker history at the L.A. Poker Classic in Los Angeles. The magician performed some poker magic when he beat out 382 (including Vinny Vinh in heads-up play) to win the massive $1.4 million first-place prize. At the time Esfandiari was the youngest player ever to win a WPT event.
Esfandiari bought a Dodge Viper and an Armani suit with the prize money and hasn't looked back.
Several months after the L.A. classic Esfandiari once again struck gold, this time at the WSOP. He beat Phil Nguyen in the $2,000 Pot-Limit Event to take home a gold bracelet and $184,860.
It was around that time that Esfandiari finally moved to Las Vegas permanently. Since then he's been a huge part of the poker scene.
Esfandiari has maintained his high-profile image by writing books, appearing in video games and even making an instructional DVD. He has also appeared on television in shows like High Stakes Poker and the National Heads-Up Poker Championship. Esfandiari, along with Laak, also starred in the reality show I Bet on You.
It's even rumored that for $1,000 Esfandiari can be hired to give a tour of the nightlife of Las Vegas.
Known for his flashy lifestyle and fantastic chip tricks, the "Magician" will probably be dazzling competitors and railbirds for years to come, whether with his card-playing ability or his magic tricks.
- Grew up in San Jose
- Professional magician
- Hopes to open a magic-theme restaurant
- Was once roommates with good friend Phil Laak